Enablement Spotlight: Harness the Power of Networking
June 8, 2022
Learning Tips Straight to Your Inbox
Each month, Stephanie Middaugh, Director of Enablement at WorkRamp, shares her expertise, from fresh ideas on new enablement strategies to actionable tips to implement at your organization. In this month’s post, Stephanie explores how networking has been instrumental in advancing her career, along with some tips for getting started.
When I was new to my enablement career, I didn’t even know what networking was. It sounded like business jargon, and I envisioned invite-only cocktail parties and fancy dinners. I’m an introvert by nature, so the idea of going to networking events and interacting with strangers was daunting, to say the least. When I learned that all it involved was talking to people, whether at the proverbial “watercooler,” online, at an industry tradeshow, or other events, that took the pressure off!
Over the years, I’ve sharpened my networking skills and have grown to love it. Not only is networking enjoyable, but it has also helped me tremendously in my career. As I started meeting other enablement professionals, I realized that they were facing similar struggles and treading water as fast as they could—and they often felt like they were stuck on a metaphorical island, struggling by themselves.
That’s one of the reasons I co-founded The Enablement Squad in 2019 with my colleague Matt Scheitle. As a space where enablement professionals can network, brainstorm, share best practices, and yes, even share those struggles we were all facing. Our community thrived, growing to more than 1,600 members in less than three years. WorkRamp recently acquired The Enablement Squad, and with their support, we expect the community to continue to expand.
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Networking and enablement go hand in hand
Networking relates closely to enablement. I’ve found that the enablement community at large has a giving spirit, and enablement professionals at all levels are eager to gain insights from others, as well as share their own knowledge and experiences. In other words, they like to “enable” people by offering help and advice. Whenever someone asks me what books I read or what podcasts I frequent to expand my knowledge, I tell them the truth: Mostly, I have conversations with other enablement professionals.
What do we talk about? What we’re working on and our priorities. Our thought processes for building out projects. Our tactics for talking to executives. Best practices for presenting a business plan. We exchange ideas and share stories, and point each other to valuable resources that help us learn and grow.
New to networking? Here’s how to get started
If you’re new to networking and want to dip your toes in the water, here are some tips and tactics that work, based on my personal experience:
- Start small. LinkedIn is the perfect springboard and an essential first step to building your network. Get your profile in shape, then start searching for enablement professionals to connect with. Comment on posts with a question or relevant commentary to start a conversation with an author and/or others in the comment thread. And, of course, ask to add them to join your LinkedIn network. You can also ask to meet them for a virtual coffee, which is a nice, low-pressure way to start building rapport.
- Join a community or two: As you browse the LinkedIn pages of your fellow Enablement professionals, look for links to communities that interest you. In addition to LinkedIn, do a few quick searches on Google, and see what pops up. When you join, introduce yourself and ask a question or share a link to some interesting content to start a discussion and begin to connect with members.
- Meet face-to-face: Now that the threat of COVID is waning and mask mandates have been lifted, in-person meetings, conferences, and networking events are opening up ample opportunities to meet face-to-face with peers to share stories, ideas, and contact info. Mine your social channels and communities for upcoming virtual and in-person events, or Google “Enablement Events 2022” and see what pops up. Ask your manager if you can attend any upcoming industry trade shows relevant to your organization, or find out where your favorite enablement podcasters and experts are speaking next.
Before you arrive at any event, I find it helpful to have a goal in mind regarding how many people you intend to speak with. For example, set the goal to talk to at least five people for two minutes or more, or have one sit-down discussion with a peer. This will help you focus and provide incentive, even when you’re feeling less-than-social.
- Keep it offline: If in-person gatherings aren’t your thing, there are plenty of ways to mix and mingle virtually. No matter your industry, your organization has vendors—and they often host webinars. Register and attend live, then chime in on chat. Ask relevant questions related to enablement to fuel the discussion. Even podcasts are becoming interactive, allowing you to chat with listeners and ask questions.
- Find a mentor: The most valuable conversations I’ve had are one-on-one conversations with people who are in similar situations as me. That’s why I recommend finding a mentor—or multiple mentors. As I mentioned, enablement professionals are generous about sharing their knowledge and often their time, and many will be flattered you asked!
I’ve had a number of mentors throughout my career, and I’ve found monthly syncs are the best way to really get to know them and get comfortable asking questions and exchanging ideas. Ideally, it should be symbiotic—they share their knowledge and you share yours. That way it’s not just about you picking their brain—you become a support system for each other and help each other grow professionally.
These five tips will help you navigate the world of networking like a pro. But if you’re struggling to find a space that meets your needs, don’t be afraid to start your own community! Whether you work in enablement or another profession, if you get really specific about your goals and objectives for the group, you’ll attract like-minded individuals who show up enthusiastic and ready to talk shop.
We’d love to hear from you about enablement trends you’re seeing in 2022. Send me a message on my LinkedIn page to share your thoughts and keep the conversation going!
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